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Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve 2000


K-J's 2000 vintage of their venerable Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay.

In 2001, I had just proposed to my girlfriend while on a vacation that took us to Lake Placid, New York. At that time, the only wine I'd ever had was the kind with little bubbles in it on New Year's. We had walked to a fairly nice little Mediterranean restaurant from our hotel, and Larissa suggested we have some wine to celebrate.

Of course, I felt some trepidation about this, but said okay. Being ignorant, I let her peruse the wine list, and she selected a half-bottle of chardonnay -- the Kendall-Jackson 2000 Vintner's Reserve. Little did she know what she was starting...

After discovering that wine was in fact something not only palatable but enjoyable, I began trying other Chardonnays and eventually branching out from there. And afterward I think we found one other place that had the 2000 when we went out to eat. We were still doing the long-distance relationship and I wasn't drinking wine on my own, so fast-forward to 2003 when we're finally married and together and I'm starting to look at wine as more than an occasion beverage.

By this time, the 2001s were giving way to the 2002s and I'd still partaken of fewer than 10 wineries. And even as we moved past that, that first half-bottle remained my benchmark. For a long time, I hadn't found anything I liked better. I knew I preferred the 2002 to the 2001, which led Larissa to start a Google search in 2004 to see if there was any left in captivity. She managed to find 9 bottles with a wine distributor in Chicago, which my folks picked up and stored for us until we could arrange to get it from them.

By 2005, I'd gotten to the point where I was actually enjoying red wines (and not just one or two Shirazes) and was comparing the K-J 2003 to other Chardonnays from New York, California, Argentina, and Australia. I actually found myself wondering what it was I saw in that 2000 given how much other good wine I had been drinking. I had begun to wonder whether the memory was cheating.

And then I finally got to open one of the bottles my parents had been keeping for me. I took a sip and in an instant, I remembered why I love this wine.

It's not so much the initial taste that makes it, which is a wonderful middle-of-the-road Chardonnay flavor leaning toward apple and oak. It's the wonder of how a creamy, buttery aftertase blooms pleasantly as you drink. And it stays in your mouth for a long time.

That lingering butteryness is something I've yet to find duplicated. The 2001 Grand Reserve had it to some extent, but the Vintner's Reserve since hasn't. Tapiz, an Argentine vinyard owned by Kendall-Jackson makes a Chardonnay that comes close but the buttery taste doesn't linger.

Those 9 bottles are almost gone now, and there's a part of me that really hates that whites don't age like reds do. The sentamentalitst in me would love to keep a case of it for anniversaries or other special events. But in the meantime, it remains my benchmark Chardonnay.


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